Garden Spot Village Race Recap
Race: Garden Spot Village Marathon and Half Marathon
Location: New Holland, PA and surrounding boroughs
Distance: 21.1km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 11 April 2015, 8am
Distance Travelled to Compete: 98 km (61 miles)
Weather conditions: Clear, started at mid 40s and rose to mid 50s and sunny
Course conditions: Rugged roads through Amish country and with inclines and rolling hills. First hill is mile 5 and second hill for those running the half will be mile 8, a very steep incline. Unfortunately for those running the full, this same hill is mile 21. For those running the full, the course goes further west into Leola, PA, otherwise, half marathons make a turnaround on Peters Road at mile 7.
Preview: My first race back in Lancaster since 2010. The good news is that it was in much nicer weather. The bad news is that the hills and overall the course were extremely challenging.
I took Amtrak into Lancaster Thursday night and stayed with family for what was probably the first time in ages.
On Friday, packet pickup opened at 2pm. If you are staying in Lancaster County, expect to spend at least 20 minutes on PA 23, as that road is a very slow road through Leola and New Holland. As I stayed in the west part of the county with family, it took us close to 40.
We arrived around 4pm hitting rush hour traffic. Check in was located on Weaver Road at the central part of Garden Spot Village, a retirement community that consisted of many complexes and apartment buildings and duplexes.
Check in was quite seamless. Check your name against your number, collect your bib, your kit and your bag and be on your way. Definitely though the shirt and bag were well done.
When we arrived Saturday, the start was right where packet pick up was, right in the middle. Off to the side was a slew of concessions, behind that was a tent where runners could get post-race massages. Next to that was a runners’ only post race meal tent, which awaited after we crossed the finish line.
Pre-game festivities included a band (above) and of all things, an invocation. Being agnostic, I had to remind myself where I was and almost shook when the crowd resounded with a huge “Amen”.
But soon all the festivities were over and we were on our way. The gun went off and the crowd roared. I was frozen enough to wear an old mylar sheet pre-race. I would soon find out later that the sun would heat us up quite nicely.
The first mile was on campus, then through another neighborhood before heading out on the first country road. I was feeling the ruggedness of Lancaster County already. Men in suspenders and women in bonnets suurounded me as did your average everyday local. It was mostly flat and fast.
We ran into the first slew of Amish families seated outside their homes and supposedly cheering on their loved ones. It was up an incline and hung a right as we headed toward a few houses covered by trees. First water stop was here as well.
More open farmland. We headed toward another development and down another rolling hill. Crossing a bridge that separated a farm and a junction that would lead us toward the finish line, we saw a second water stop. Amazingly I was losing water in my body at the rate that I had to use multiple cups to fill my bottle. I should have run in short sleeves, I was running in my Love Run kit from this year. Damn me.
Speaking of that shirt, another man dressed in that kit ran right by me. “Nice shirt!” he remarked. At least we had that badassery in common doing two half marathons in two weeks.
We went up our first large hill which was more long and rugged than steep. It took a bit of time and wind out of me, but I did manage to recover and take a first pass at an old classmate of mine who also lives in Philly now. A bit ironic because she is more fit and fast than I am. She probably was not having a good race.
After this part of the course the course opened up to traffic although caution signs were pretty much everywhere and any traffic was restricted to one way traffic.
Entirely downhill. It would be our first sighting of the lead male for the half, and first sighting of Mile 8, the hill from hell. The latter part took us such a steep decline that I needed energy to slow down and not run over people.
This was the turnaround point, marked by a large red flag. Those of the pack running the full marathon would continue past this flag, and the rest of us would turn around.
I was a bit winded at this point and stopped at the water station and the bathroom (having drank so much fluid) before the turnaround. Incidentally, my parents were right at the turnaround, but given the ruckus and the official at the turnaround point shaking her cowbells as she yelled at us to turn around, I’d completely missed them as I turned around and headed on the “good” or return side of the road.
We passed a horse and buggy at Mile 7 as well, incidentally the horse lost the plot but thankfully it didn’t interfere with the runners.
This. The most hilariously difficult part of the course. After we turned around, we faced the same hill we’d come down for Mile 6.
It was too steep to even try running upwards. I tried leaning forward but my calves instantly felt a nasty pull from behind. I was forced to walk and even then I felt that calf pull. I’d seen the 7min/mile runners also struggle earlier so I didn’t feel so bad. No runner around me bothered to run.
This climb took us back through another development which thankfully meant another water stop. The last hill forced me to exhaust my water bottle, I was forced to refill.
The next incline was gradual and we went through another tree covered area. Several patrol bikers passed us by.
Finally, another downhill. The same slow hill we acsended when approaching Mile 5 but in reverse. I passed my classmate yet again (who I’d presumed had passed me whilst at the bathroom). A great scenic view of the farmland, but the ruggedness of the roads made me want to get this run over with. We passed our second to last water stop then set off in the final part of the course.
Two flat roads on our way back to Kinzer Avenue. We went through more farmland and through some rail tracks. At Mile 12 I passed my classmate one more time and this time I left her behind.
More Mennonite families cheered us on the way back. And with that I could taste the finish line. THAT post race meal.
Kinzer Avenue to Weaver Road to the finish line. I wanted to jump for joy when I saw that street sign. Unfortunately, I did not know how long that final mile would be – compounding that feeling was a massive headwind. We ran the final mile entirely against the headwind.
We passed an ambulance past the final development, knowing that was a key safety distance from the finish, I knew we were quite close to the end. One more bend…
….and then Weaver Road. The bright orange shirts of the volunteers. Finally. The end was near.
We made one final turn to the right and off to my left it was my parents and not far behind them, the finish line.
Boom. Complete. Not my worst time ever, managed to survive.
The Finish Line and Post Race
The first thing I saw were volunteers handing out medals. Half finishers received a silver medal with a purple ribbon and full finishers received a gold medal with a green ribbon.
The next thing we received was a water bottle and mylar sheets. I then saw my parents direct me to the runners’ food tent, where only those with a bib were permitted inside.
The first thing we were given was chocolate milk from a local dairy. Next, we could serve tea, coffee, hot cocoa or further electrolytes if we needed. After this, we had our pick of oatmeal with toppings, turkey, chicken or veggie hummus wraps, trail mix in cups, banana or orange slices. And yes, the best part were the omelets (our pick of egg or cheese) and strata (eggs or ham).
It was an insane amount of food and furthermore, I didn’t know of any other race that had such a post race meal. The hot food was much prepared by the kitchen staff but much of the other food plus any concessions outside were given or sold by local businesses.
I also caught up with my classmate.
After leaving the tent, I queued up for the massage tent. It was a good 20 or so minutes but with 12 local therapists under the tent the queue moved quickly. I was given a chiropractor who helped stretch my quads and hamstrings and calves. It wasn’t going to fully accomplish the job but her stretches really helped.
Once I was through the tent, it was time to call it a day and head home.
Overall this race was extremely well run and supported by the community. At $75 for early registration it might seem pretty steep for a small race but the organisers really take care of the runners and the post race meal was so good. Race shirt was of good quality and design and really liked the swag bag itself.
The course was brutal but scenic and for such a well organized race with Clif gels at every water stop to boot, this race is well worth it.